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Dungeons & Dragons 3: The Book of Vile Darkness (2012)

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Dungeons & Dragons 3: The Book of Vile Darkness (2012)

Friday, 04 October 2013 02:25

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The Buzz:

     The series of movies based on the classic Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game is a franchise that, while filled with potential, could be called underwhelming at best. The much-maligned first film in 2000, followed by a mostly-forgotten TV sequel in 2005, attempted to take the source material and turn it into something more palatable for general audiences, resulting in watered-down, cliché generi-fantasy on par with a ‘90s kids’ movie. The third film, The Book of Vile Darkness, takes its name from an obscure artifact within and supplemental book for the actual D&D game, and as a result is both more mature in content and much more grounded in the game’s mythos and culture than either of its predecessors. If you’re a gamer who’s been waiting for a “proper” D&D adaptation, then this is the film for you.

 

"Good, Evil? Bah! A Wizard only ever has one alignment, and that alignment is 'Wizard.'"

Life of the Party (Positives):

     Presented in 2012 on the SyFy channel to little fanfare, D&D3 was clearly made by fans of the game, for fans of the game. The story involves a young paladin who must go undercover with a band of evil mercenaries to rescue his kidnapped father, causing him to gradually sacrifice his purity and personal virtue for the greater good. The “Paladin falls due to good intentions” story is a classic trope that any D&D player will recognize, but the internal conflict makes for a much more interesting story than a more generic quest. What’s also interesting about the script is that the adventurers, all of them ruthless, bloodthirsty sociopaths, act precisely like a group of players at the tabletop often do: they gripe about the general lack of loot on their journey, blow what money they do have on ale and whores, and then extort a peaceful village out of all their treasure just because they’re magical badasses and they know they can get away with it. The hero’s surreptitious efforts to reign in his more vicious companions make for some good dark, suspenseful moments, but are also charming because you can tell his player is the serious one who really thinks we should get the campaign back on track or else we’ll never get anywhere, guys, come on…

 Well, looks like SOMEBODY built his character using the Book of Erotic Fantasy...

      D&D3 is also full of subtle in-jokes and references that fans will love, from name-dropping particular magic items and character classes to little things, like one character having the holy symbol of his D&D deity as a tattoo. This was particularly impressive because the tattoos and the deity are never mentioned once in conversation, they’re just there because they logically should be for that character. A bit less subtle is a great scene early on where the hero visits a magic item shop (ubiquitous in games, but when was the last time you actually saw one in a movie?) and rattles off a shopping list of mystical artifacts as if they were commonly-understood commodities picked out from a catalog, just like a player would do while thumbing through a game manual. Later, the hero gets offended when the shop-keeper implies that he might not be high-enough level to wield a certain piece of equipment. Segments like this bump up against the fourth wall without quite breaking it, and are really entertaining to anyone who knows what they’re referencing.

     A word must also be said about the special effects, which are really very good for a SyFy movie. Gone are the cartoonish dragons of the first movie (and the cartoonish acting of Jeremy Irons, tragically), replaced with CGI creatures that are much more realistic, detailed, and seem to have real weight to them. Of particular note is the scene with the “Slaymate,” a downright creepy monster that I’m not 100% sure exactly how they pulled off – it’s unclear whether it’s all CGI, a very talented physical actor in a suit with a dash of computer enhancement, or a mix, but the end effect is as unnerving as any critter you’d find in a Silent Hill film. Also, I'm just elated that somebody actually took the trouble to put the Slaymate in a damn movie, that's a pretty deep track in terms of monsters.

 

Potential Hangovers (Negatives): 

     The plot is at some points a bit vague, and it’s not always clear what the party is doing or precisely why. I’m sure it’s all covered in the dialogue somewhere, but either my friend and I weren’t paying close enough attention when we watched this, or everyone’s lines are just so flowery and high-fantasy that important details get obscured. Either way, it’s seldom a problem, you’ll just be occasionally surprised by “oh, I guess they’re going dragon-hunting, that makes sense” or find yourself wondering “wait, where did that random prostitute get all of this money from?” Since it’s a short movie, the script admittedly glosses over some of the fine details so it can get to the good parts sooner. At the same time, important plot points are repeatedly exposited in the dialogue despite being fully explained in the opening narration, making you wonder if the script had a couple re-writes before final presentation, and the ending is rather abrupt as well. I guess it’s just the limitations of being made for TV.

     Of course, since this is a movie that is intended primarily for D&D players, with many in-jokes, people who don’t understand the game simply aren’t going to enjoy it as much. It’s still a pretty well-made, if low-budget, fantasy movie, it’s just such a niche product that most people won’t get the maximum level of enjoyment out of it.

     NOTE: As far as I can tell, at the time of this writing there is no DVD release of this film in the US, though it has been put out in a smattering of other countries. Alternately, just find it somewhere online and stream/download it - if SyFy had wanted us to buy this movie legitimately, they’d have made it possible to do so already.

 

The Vibe (Casual Gathering, Lazy Afternoon):

     If you’re currently a gamer, or just a geek with a fair understanding of the world’s most famous RPG, you will find a lot to enjoy in D&D3. I’m a big Dungeons & Dragons fan, and although the big-screen original slightly edges this movie out simply due to its big-budget scale and grandiosity, this movie is undoubtedly the best depiction of what the game is actually like – it’s as if somebody took their campaign notes and just put them right on screen. Nostalgia is a strong factor here, but, like any SyFy Channel original, D&D3 would make fine casual viewing for most people. In fact, I’d put this movie among the best work they’ve ever done, if that counts for anything to you.

+ Perfect depiction of how D&D stories and characters actually work, with loads of entertaining references

+ Much more mature story and more complex characters than the previous two movies

+ Slick-looking effects bring even the most obscure monsters to life convincingly

- Definitely geared toward people who will already know what the hell they're talking about

- Movie seems rushed, constrained by its TV time-slot

 

Drinking Game Suggestions:

~Drink whenever a rule or concept from the game is directly referenced

~Drink whenever the Paladin’s Code gets broken

~Drink whenever someone uses a magical item with a flashy CGI effect

~Drink whenever you hear the following: Vile, Darkness, or Evil

~Whenever the characters “turn in a quest,” finish your drink and begin a new quest of your own (to find another drink)

~GROGNARD MODE: Whenever someone says “Liquid Pain,” all players must roll a die. Whoever rolls highest gets to assign another player to take a shot of something painful (cheap tequila, everclear, 1:1 ratio of vodka to hot sauce, room-temperature Miller Lite, etc.). A Natural 20 is a critical hit, so double the amount of drinking.

 

Read 820 times Last modified on Friday, 04 October 2013 03:12

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Tanked Matinee is the place to go for good drinking movies. What do we mean by that? Simply speaking, we evaluate and recommend entertainment media based on how much fun it is to watch with friends on the sofa and a cold beer in hand.

Everyone knows "The Godfather" is a great movie, but is it as great to drink with as "Roadhouse?" We can appreciate "Citizen Kane" as a masterpiece of cinema, but is it as good a centerpiece for your party as "Santa Clause Conquers the Martians?"

Tanked Matinee appreciates film as art, but when you're kicking back on Friday night with a tall Rum & Coke, you're not looking for art, man, you want to be entertained. We're here to recommend the best movies for your night in, whether it's a big party, small get-together, or just a quiet night alone with a bottle of wine or three.

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